Daily Archives: 1 November 2008

Hindustani for British Royalty, 1921

From Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Emperor, by Alex von Tunzelmann (Picador, 2008), pp. 58-59:

On 26 October 1921, Dickie [Mountbatten] and David [Windsor] left Portsmouth on the battle cruiser HMS Renown. On 12 November, they came ashore at Aden on the south coast of Arabia, the westernmost British colony ruled from Delhi. The pair of them drove past large gatherings of black spectators hemmed in by the occasional white man in a pith helmet. Union Jacks fluttered in the sky, and a huge banner was unfurled. It addressed the Prince of Wales with a loyal exhortation: “Tell Daddy we are all happy under British rule.” And it was from this acceptably loyal outpost of his future empire that David embarked finally for the Jewel itself….

The prince’s itinerary had been planned according to long-established royal tradition. He was to progress around India attending interminable parties, opening buildings, killing as much wildlife as possible and only interacting with the common people by waving at them from a parade. The sentiments of the royal party were made plain in the booklet of Hindustani phrases produced by Dickie and Sir Geoffrey de Montmorency and circulated on board HMS Renown. It comprised a list of basic numbers and verbs, plus a few everyday expressions. These included:

    Ghoosul teeyar kurro—Make ready the bath
    Yeh boot sarf kurro—Make clean these boots
    Peg do—Give me a whisky and soda
    Ghora lao—Bring round the horse
    Yeh miler hai; leyjao—This is dirty; take it away
    Tum Kootch Angrezi bolte hai?—Do you speak any English?
    Mai neigh sumujhta—I don’t understand

The words for please and thank you are nowhere to be found.

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Rebranding British Royalty, 1914-1917

From Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Emperor, by Alex von Tunzelmann (Picador, 2008), pp. 43-45:

ON 28 JUNE 1914, AN AUSTRIAN ARCHDUKE AND HIS WIFE were shot in Sarajevo by a nineteen-year-old terrorist. Assassinations were not unusual at the time. Victims in recent years had included the presidents of Mexico, France and the United States, the empresses of Korea and Austria, a Persian shah and the kings of Italy, Greece and Serbia. Portugal had two kings assassinated on the same day in 1908. But the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand would swiftly assume its legendary status as the trigger for the Great War. Swift to feel its tremors was the fourteen-year-old great-grandson of Queen Victoria, His Serene Highness Prince Louis of Battenberg….

Four months to the day after Franz Ferdinand’s death, the elder Prince Louis of Battenberg was removed from his position as First Sea Lord. Prince Louis had been British since 1868 and had served in the Royal Navy since he was fourteen years old. But by October 1914 Britain was at war with Germany, and there were far too many Germans visible in high places. For King George V, of the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the public tide of anti-German feeling was alarming. He was largely German; his wife, the former Princess May of Teck, was wholly German; his recently deceased father, King Edward VII, had even spoken English with a strong German accent. It was uncomfortably obvious where all this might lead, and a high-profile sacrifice was required to satisfy the public. Prince Louis was at the top of the list.

And so the king and his First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, agreed to throw one of their most senior military experts onto the pyre at the beginning of the war, because his name was foreign….

But the humiliation of the Battenbergs was not complete. On 17 July 1917, a mass rebranding of royalty was ordered by George V. The king led by example this time, dropping Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (which was, in any case, a title — nobody knew what his surname was, though they suspected without enthusiasm that it might be Wettin or Wipper), and adopting the British-sounding Windsor. Much against their will, the rest of the in-laws were de-Germanized. Prince Alexander of Battenberg became the Marquess of Carisbrooke; Prince Alexander of Teck became the Earl of Athlone; Adolphus, Duke of Teck, became the Marquess of Cambridge. The unfortunate princesses of Schleswig-Holstein were demoted, in the king’s words, to “Helena Victoria and Marie Louise of Nothing.” And the unemployed Prince Louis of Battenberg would be Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven…. Henceforth, Prince Louis would be a marquess, and Battenberg a cake.

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Filed under Britain, Europe, Germany, language, nationalism, war